Thinking Creatively About Online Education

Graham du Plessis

Posted: October 31, 2019

Table of Contents

One of the most-watched Ted Talks of all time features educationalist Ken Robinson. If you haven’t viewed this remarkable video on the importance of creativity when thinking about education – please do. It will change the way you view learning forever! 

Robinson is clear that most people associate creativity with being totally free and unstructured. But as he says:

“What we really have to get hold of is the idea that you can’t be creative if you don’t do something.”

Ken Robinson

Creativity has to be applied in a deliberate and structured manner.

Gilly Salmon, one of my favourite authors on online learning, knows just how important it is to have applied, deliberate creativity at the heart of the learning experience, and her five-step model speaks to how best to include this from a learning design perspective. 

The key, for her, is to awaken a ‘curious mind’ and support the student throughout the learner journey, with structured and engaging interactions and support.

What this means to me is that the online learning experience begins by placing you, the student, at the centre of the learning experience, with support structures that provide a clear pathway as to how the learning will take place.

It should also be clear to you how the course will unfold (learning pathway), how best to navigate the learning platform (LMS – learner management system), where to view resources (and why), how to engage with e-activities, complete online assignments and ask for support (very important), as well as where to discuss topics and when to expect feedback/grades.

When evaluating a learning platform, check to see if this really is the case: 

  • -Ask for a view of the course outline 
  • -Find out:
    • -Who will be supporting you 
    • -Whether you can engage with other participants
    • -Who will be providing feedback 
    • -By when and how progress will be tracked 

When this information is clear to you, true ‘creativity’ can emerge. It is only when we have this structured support in place and we feel ’safe’ that we can begin to self-actualise.  The very definition of creativity. (Maslow, Abraham H 1969).

The world in which we find ourselves requires us to think innovatively and creatively. Employers and entrepreneurs are constantly looking for individuals who can take problems and find novel solutions from a variety of angles. It has been said that the greatest innovators are not necessarily the people who have the most original ideas or concepts. Often, they are those who have come together to communicate a great solution to a problem. As Linda Naiman says:

“For innovation to flourish, organisations must create an environment that fosters creativity; bringing together multi-talented groups of people who work in close collaboration together — exchanging knowledge, ideas and shaping the direction of the future. Organisations led by creative leaders have a higher success rate in innovation, employee engagement, change, and renewal.”

Linda Naiman

Choosing online courses that incorporate a learning design help free you up to engage with the content,  share your ideas/questions with your fellow online peers, tutor or facilitator, and receive meaningful feedback. The online learning environment provides a space where you are at the centre of the experience, allowing you to tap into your own imagination, ultimately determining how best to apply – creatively – the knowledge you have gained.

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